Last Thursday we gathered for our third Advent group, looking at the Kingdom of God. We began by reading the Old Testament reading for Sunday (Isaiah 35:1-6,10) focusing on the signs of the Kingdom, including the desert flowering and healing been seen.

We then read and discussed the following texts:

  • an extract from Sunday’s Gospel:

John in his prison had heard what Christ was doing and he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?’ Jesus answered, ‘Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’

  • A quote from George Ashenbrenner SJ:

“The call of the King sounds the great mission to love…Christ the King raditates his mission- to share the fulfilling love and glory of his Beloved with everyone. His desire is a call and its attractiveness will increase and be uniquely specified for you.”

  • A quote from Alexander Schmemann:

“The church constitutes itself through love and on love, and in this world it is to ‘witness’ to love, to re-present it, to make love present.”

  • 1 Corinthians 13

In the discussion that followed links were made to both people’s childhood and our time of preparation before we were received into the Church. The Isaiah passage brought back memories of feeling out in the wilderness and also of prayers being fulfilled and a sense of joy. For some the Isaiah text was a picture of healing and a promise that seeds planted will germinate. There was a sense here that the development of our community some of these promises, were beginning to ‘germinate’ and we could see the first shoots.

From the Gospel some picked up John’s expectations. He is uncertain that Jesus is the Messiah and has sent his followers to ask. God fulfills his plans in unexpected ways. This means that there is a need for openness in our prayer. For some becoming Catholics was surprising but has become about recognizing where there is life.

A comment was made that the 1 Corinthians passage, although familiar, had new meaning this time of reading. The passage has a sense that we grow into who we truly are when we are where God calls us to be. For each of us there is a specific call. We can watch the journey of others but being aware that our own calling is unique. This passage also reminded one person of a verse from Psalm 23, when it is translated “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Being in the place where God has called us to be, experiencing his love is a place where we discover who we are and that we are complete in God.

This calling can be seen clearly when we look back and this process brings about gratitude as we see what God has done in our lives.

There is also the aspect that we all have our own part to play. There is part of love, which is seeing the need of others and being motivated by love to act. This part of the discussion made me think of the film “The Painted Veil” where a doctor and his wife travel to a remote part of China, during a cholera epidemic. The doctor’s wife, Kitty, does not love him but learns to as she sees her husband work and watches his compassion and untiring work for the villagers. She too begins to work, initially out of spite but gradually motivated by love for those around her. There is a dynamic to the Kingdom of God that works in a similar way. We encounter God in Christ our King and discover his love for us, whether we love him or not. In this encounter and in seeing how he works in the World, we begin to love him. This developing love motivates us to want to work with him for we learn to love the world as we see how Christ loves it.

From this we then thought about our corporate life and discussed the implications for our group charism.

As we finished our discussion we brought our evening to a close with the following meditation:

Winter brings changes. We thought last week about how winter nights are a time for storytelling and in these stories we can meet with Christ.

Winter at the allotment is different from the growing times of year. The tempo changes. There is a more contemplative feel to the work going on.

It is a time of clearing; a time for digging over and putting on compost. It is heavy work but done at a steady pace. This time does not have the frantic feel of summer.

The work in the Winter is done in faith. The benefit will not be seen for months and nothing is guaranteed. A germiating seed, the weather, animals. So much is out of our hands. And we dig and prepare and lay down anyway. And all the time we are just co-operating with nature.

NT Wright says:

‘Every act of love, gratitude and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings, and for that matter one’s fellow non-human creatures; and of course every prayer,  all Spirit-led teaching, every deed which spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honoured in the world –all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation which God will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of God. God’s recreation of his wonderful world, which has begun with the resurrection of Jesus and continues mysteriously as God’s  people live in the risen Christ and in the power of his Spirit, means that what we do in Christ and by the Spirit in the present is not wasted. It will last all the way into God’s new world.’